Last chance to submit your thoughts to the Governance Review – deadline is noon tomorrow

The deadline for submissions to the party’s Governance Review is noon tomorrow. If you have strong opinions on how the party is run, you need to get them in by then. The Federal Executive will be discussing them at an away day on 5th December and proposals will then be drawn up for consultation at Spring Conference and regional and state conferences. Here’s what I wrote in September about why it’s important to contribute:

I often think that if any executive body wanted to do some real power grabs, it would circulate them in a document entitled “Governance review” in the hope that nobody would actually read them and work out what they meant.

Actually, you don’t get away with that in this party where we have been known to have quite a bit of an obsession with constitutional geekery and process. I often feel that we get too tied up in the wording of tiny parts of the constitution and not enough in its practical application and the culture we need to foster to make the party work well. In a party that values openness, transparency and accessibility for government, we don’t have nearly enough of them in the way we run our party.

Party reform was a massive issue in last year’s presidential election campaign. We all know we want to do something different, and the Governance Review now underway is designed to work out the precise details for reform. How can we say that we are run by our members when only a select few are even eligible to stand for some of the most important power-wielders? Are we truly making the most of the talents and professional skills of our members?

Everyone will remember that horrid “spaghetti” organisation chart that was published in the Morrissey Report. It didn’t quite reflect reality and there’s a much better organisation chart in the Governance Review’s Consultation Document. In the introduction, Party President Sal Brinton says that every Party committee she asks says it’s vital and recommends the abolition of another. Sensibly, the Review asks open question about the principles which should underpin the way the party is run, the jobs it needs to do and the sort of cultural changes we need to make. Diversity is an important theme – how do we break down the barriers affecting under-represented groups. Does that involve quotas and other measures for candidates in both internal and external elections?

Often you’ll hear people talk about having a “modern”, “professional” “grown-up” structure in a way that  means taking more power to the centre and concentrating it. For me, being these things is about trusting our members, giving them real power and making sure all have the opportunity to serve the party at its highest levels.

One of the main debates on this has been over the future of the English Party. Some people simply want to abolish it and make the regions state parties. As a Scot I probably should keep my trap shut but I can’t help thinking that a more accessible and transparent English Party would be beneficial – let all members stand for positions rather than have so many barriers put in front of them, for example. One thing that it’s very important to avoid is any suggestion of equivalence between the Scottish and Welsh state parties and English regions. Given the exploitation by the SNP of ex-Labour leader Johann Lamont’s complaints that Scottish Labour was a branch office, we can’t have that sort of perception about the Scottish Party being made when we have always been independent and autonomous.

You can read the whole consultation document here. You don’t need to answer all of the questions, but it’s worth taking some time this Sunday to answer those that matter to you and email your submission to [email protected] I’m going to concentrate my personal submission under the “Respect for each other” section because that is what’s most important to me.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • “One thing that it’s very important to avoid is any suggestion of equivalence between the Scottish and Welsh state parties and English regions.”

    Because England NEEDS that extra layer of bureaucracy even though we never fight elections at the English level; and Yorkshire will never be a state, so it’s ok to treat an area with the same population and GDP as Scotland as a bunch of whiners who need to shut up about getting their own parliament already?

    Sorry, Caron, I love you deeply, but we are NEVER going to agree about this. It’s VITAL that Y&H gets treated the same as Scotland does.

  • “I agree with Caron”.
    For the Lib Dems to reduce Scotland to the equivalence of East Anglia would be an absolute gift for the SNP.
    Exactly how would a “Y&H state” run the NHS or Education differently from an “East Midlands state”)?

  • “Everyone will remember that horrid “spaghetti” organisation chart that was published in the Morrissey Report. It didn’t quite reflect reality and there’s a much better organisation chart in the Governance Review’s Consultation Document.”

    This is a rewriting of history. If the chart attached to the Governance review – with no explanation or reference in the text of the review, actually existed when Helena Morrissey prepared her report, the question has to be asked why wasn’t she shown a copy? Likewise no one questioned the validity of Helena Morrissey’s chart when it was published (see Stephen Tall’s article on LDV ).

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 15th Nov '15 - 11:26am


    I look forward to the Federal Executive’s consultation with the East of England Regional Conference… in October…

  • Jonathan Webber 15th Nov '15 - 11:37am

    The sooner we get rid of the Federal Executive the better. Comprised in too many cases of a self-absorbed, self-perpetuating, self-regarding ‘elite’ ordinary activists, members and supporters are better positioned and more aware of local and regional issues that directly impact on our day to day activity and Lib Dem fightback.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 15th Nov '15 - 12:04pm


    I think there were sessions at many regional conferences. Maybe your region didn’t want one?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 15th Nov '15 - 12:10pm


    Do you not think that the party should have an overall governing body at all? How would you co-ordinate party strategy across the whole country.

    I’m a member of FE, so I obviously have an interest here. We are accountable to the party, though, and if we were as self absorbed and self regarding as you say, would we have championed extending the right to vote at Conference to all members – that’s a bit of a power giveaway, is it not?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 15th Nov '15 - 12:52pm


    With respect, you are referring to a future consultation over a document that doesn’t exist yet. In your own words above;

    “Proposals will then be drawn up for consultation at Spring Conference and at regional and state conferences…”

    You’ll pardon me but, given that my Region, the East of England, does not hold a Spring Conference, we won’t get to discuss it at Regional level here until October.

    I’m not convinced that last October is in our future…

  • paul barker 15th Nov '15 - 1:14pm

    On that Jennie/Caron debate about Nations/Regions I really like the attitude that Canadians have developed over the last few decades. Canada is a Nation, obvs but according to the constitution so are Nunavut & Quebec, they are more than States in the American sense. On top of that members of groups like The Haida or The Tlingit often refer to those as Nations as well. The whole Nation thing is a 19th Century invention & we should think of it in commas – “Nation.”

  • Bill le Breton 15th Nov '15 - 1:21pm

    “Do you not think that the party should have an overall governing body at all?” asks Caron.

    This is to assume that it is the FE that is this overall governing body.

    In the thirty years that I have been able to view the workings of the governance of the party, that role has been done by a small Boys Club.

    The cast of the Boys Club changes albeit very slowly over time but the structure remains.

    A Party with a following of a few percentage points in the polls can only grow by the actions of an insurgency.

    Eg the Young Liberals of the 1960s and 70s, and ALC (later ALDC) in the 1980s and 90s – these successfully removed campaigning strategy (and, by force majeure, delivery) from the Boys Club both organisationally and geographically (thought it always remained in charge of the General Election campaign) .

    ALDC’s loss of grip and the centre’s gain in command of campaigning has coincided with the decline in campaigning verve, campaigning’s descent into a formulaic and illiberal technique, and the abandonment of Community Politics as a guiding Liberal philosophy.

    If the latest Boys Club gets this, the fortunes of the Party will recover. If it doesn’t it will require a new wave of iconoclasts, antihierachists and antiestablishmentarians free of the addiction to patronage to make it happen.

  • paul barker 15th Nov '15 - 5:30pm

    I made the mistake of starting at the beginning, obviously I just skimmed the text but even so by Question 8 I was losing the will to live. At that point I wondered how many more questions there were & began to scroll down; & down & down. There are 42 questions in all – 42!! With huge screeds of text inbetween. Have they heard of the idea of writing something then editing & editing again. More, in this case was definitely less.
    This was just the sort of thing our enemies find amusing.

  • suzanne fletcher 16th Nov '15 - 12:27pm

    I’ve got the Governance Review in, in time. No point in debating the points here – they need to be submitted to the review! I thought the policy review had a deadline the same date, so hope they will look at my earnest, well thoguht out, intelligent response to it even if a little late

  • Jonathan Webber 16th Nov '15 - 1:35pm


    Below is the list of those comprising the Federal Executive.

    You might notice a slight geographical preponderance? What relevance do you have to the West Midlands, the East Midlands – most of the country in fact? Essentially you’re not needed – at least not in the present format.

    Federal Executive

    Brinton, Sal. Cambridgeshire / Watford / London
    Falkner, Kishwer. London
    Bearder, Catherine. SE England
    Jarvis, Steve. East England
    Harrow, Craig. Scotland
    Berman, Rodney. Wales
    White, Chris. St. Albans
    Pinnock, Kath. Kirklees (Yorkshire)
    Farthing, Dan. Scotland
    Humphreys, Christine. Wales
    Barnes, Dawn. London
    Dewan, Ramesh. London/South
    Dixon, Joshua. London
    Doughty, Sue. Guildford, South
    Fawcett, Neil. Oxford
    Fryer, Jonathan. London
    Gurling, James. London
    Harris, Evan. Oxford
    House, Keith. Eastleigh
    Kaushik, Kavya. London
    Lindsay, Caron. Scotland
    Lishman Gordon. Northwest
    Peace, Pauline. London
    Piercy, Candy. Buckinghamshire
    Tod, Martin. Winchester
    Hook, Anthony. South

  • suzanne fletcher 16th Nov '15 - 4:38pm

    Of course it is relevant to a Federal Party to have someone from Scotland on the FE. Not Caron’s fault there is nobody from the midlands, or the North East for that matter.
    too late now, I have submitted my views to the Governance Review, but wish I had added that the FE should have representatives from each Region (and appropriate ways of supporting travel costs).
    People from the NE have put up in the past but as a small region we never had enough first preferences to get someone through to the next stage. Also as conferene always used to be south coast (it has been better in recent years) less people were conference reps. the only rep from the NE we have ever had has been Lembit once.

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